SAP launches sustainability-tracking application

SAP's emerging line of green IT software got a boost Thursday with the announcement of an application that helps companies pull together data about their corporate sustainability, analyze the information and create reports.

The software, BusinessObjects Sustainability Performance Management, is just the latest outcome of a major public push SAP launched this year around sustainable practices.

Sustainability tracking is a sprawling field, going well beyond environmental issues such as carbon emissions or the amount of fuel consumed. Companies are also looking to put hard numbers on areas such as product and workplace safety. Overall, the movement serves multiple purposes, such as managing risks and finding cost savings, as well as burnishing a company's public image.

The market is ripe for software like the new application, as companies face pressure from customers and shareholders to demonstrate sustainability, according to Charles Zedlewski, senior director of GRC solution management at SAP.

But at the same time, enterprises are finding themselves spending most of their time collecting data and putting it into a format suitable for external reports, he said. The new application mitigates that pain and lets companies focus on their sustainability strategies instead, according to SAP.

The software includes a library of KPIs (key performance indicators) for sustainability reporting, but users can also create their own.

While all companies may want to track energy consumption, the way a mining company would go about that may be quite different from a bank. Therefore, "part of what we had to do with the product is make it easy for customers to not only create, but adapt and evolve how they define these metrics," Zedlewski said.

Specific pricing information wasn't available, but "by enterprise standards this is priced fairly aggressively," according to Zedlewski. "Our goal is adoption first."

One initial customer spoke highly of the application during a teleconference Thursday.

"We knew this was going to save us a tremendous amount of time," said John Gagel, manager of sustainable practices at printer manufacturer Lexmark. "It will let us go out and get data that before this, would require a lot of phone calls and e-mails."

Lexmark had developed some homegrown databases for sustainability information, but as interest in the topic grew at a corporate level, they became inadequate, he said.

Beyond freeing up its employees, the tool will help Lexmark tell its sustainability achievements to the world faster. "There are many times when we've felt we could have done a better job of responding to external inquires ... if we just had [the data] all in one place."

In addition, Lexmark will be able to develop KPIs that map closely to the questionnaires they commonly receive from publications and benchmarking projects like the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, he said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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